STEM challenge looks to drones for wildlife protection

A STEM competition backed by the Born Free Foundation is asking students to develop drone applications for the protection of endangered wildlife.

(Credit: Pixabay)

Launched this week during a conference at the Royal Institution, the competition is run by the British International Education Association (BIEA). It is the BIEA’s second annual International STEM Youth Innovation Competition, with the focus for 2019 on fighting extinction through technology, specifically the use of drones.

Ahead of the launch, the conference heard presentations on how drones are already being used by researchers in the wild for tasks including population study and poacher detection. Dr Joshua Veitch-Michaelis from Liverpool John Moores University spoke about machine learning and drone technology and its applications to wildlife observation, while Melissa Schiele from the Zoological Society of London presented on the use of water landing drones and marine conservation in the Indian Ocean. The second half of the event featured a panel discussion based around how to engage young people in STEM careers and featured representatives from Microsoft, the Royal Institution, the British Science Association, ZSL, the British Council and Liverpool John Moores University.

The competition was then officially launched by BIEA STEM Chair David Hanson who presided over a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring Gareth Bullock from BIEA, Arran Goodchild from Engineering UK and Andrew Holmes OBE. Over 57 student teams from 13 countries have already pre-registered for the 2019 event and the registration phase will continue until the 31st of March 2019.

Students will work across a multidisciplinary set of challenges between the launch of the competition and the final event on July 4th, 2019, including report writing, design and construction, presenting, editing, research and technical skills. The final event will take place at the RAF Museum in London, where the shortlisted teams will have the chance to show off their work to expert judges and members of the public as well as to fly drones through an obstacle course and be in with a chance to win the £5000 grand-prize. All students taking part will also be eligible for the silver Crest Award from the British Science Association.